TREASURE TROVE OF CHINESE CULTURE
Despite the fact that the splendour and glory of the Tang Dynasty is no longer, the spirit of the times with its optimism, confidence and openness; its enterprising spirit with its courage to lead trends and promote innovation; and its inclusive spirit with its integration of diverse cultures and pursuit of excellency have all been incorporated into the blood of the Chinese people.
Shaanxi Province was home to the capital cities of 13 dynasties including the Zhou (1046–256 BC), Qin (221–206 BC), Han (202 BC–220 AD) and Tang, which were some of China’s most prosperous empires. These dynasties left behind abundant cultural legacies and a profound accumulation of culture, forming the unique history and culture of Shaanxi and bestowing the province with a long history and brilliant culture.
The Resplendent Objects from the Tang Dynasty Exhibition jointly hosted by the National Museum of China, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archeology and several Shaanxi museums, has awakened people’s nostalgia for the Tang Empire. These resplendent objects demonstrate the passage of time and changes in ways of life by creating slices of history and presenting them to visitors. After the exhibition in Beijing, the exhibits will return to the collections of the various local museums, at which time, anyone who wants to see them will have to make the trip there.
Famen Temple Museum
Approximately 2,000 years ago, several relics of the Buddha’s body made a long journey across deserts and mountains and arrivied in the land of Zhouyuan, in what is present-day Shaanxi Province.
More than 1,000 years ago, Famen Temple was designated an imperial temple of the Tang Dynasty. Hailed as the “Ancestor of Pagoda Temples in Central Shaanxi,” it represents the unprecedented splendour of the Tang Empire.
More than three decades ago, 2,499 precious cultural relics from the Tang Dynasty were unearthed from an underground palace beneath the temple during archeological excavations. Dating back 1,113 years, these discoveries stunned the world.
A total of 121 gold and silver objects enshrined by the Tang imperial family, the first imperial secret celadon porcelain wares to ever be discovered, glazed objects from ancient Rome, various textiles including brocades, silk, satin and embroideries such as clothing belonging to Tang emperors and empresses such as Wu Zetian, as well as a finger bone relic of the Buddha that had been sought by Buddhists around the world for centuries, were all brought to light. These objects became the key to unlocking the mysteries about the politics, economics, culture and foreign exchanges during the Tang Dynasty.
Famen Temple and Famen Pagoda have survived a tumultuous history, the rise and fall of dynasties, and the whims of monarchs. The Esoteric Buddhist culture of the Tang Dynasty, which was believed to have been lost for centuries, was retained in the Famen Temple and cast far-reaching influence on the development of Buddhist culture in Asia. By decoding the mysteries in these cultural legacies, much has been added to the study of Chinese civilisation and Buddhism.
The Famen Temple Museum was established and opened to visitors in 1988 to preserve these precious cultural relics. After more than 30 years of development, the museum dedicated to the collection, protection, research and exhibition of the cultural relics unearthed from the underground palace at the Famen Temple, as well as the history and culture they represent, has continued to expand, becoming a rising star among history museums in China. It has hosted a wide range of exhibitions related to the temple and its finds related to its history and culture, Buddhist culture, Tang-dynasty Esoteric Buddhist mandala culture, Tang-dynasty treasures and Tang-dynasty tea culture.
Imperial tea sets from the Tang Dynasty unearthed from the underground palace of the Famen Temple were originally presented to the temple by Emperor Xizong. The tea sets are made of gold and silver, and each had a special purpose, demonstrating that tea was
already popular as far back as the Tang Dynasty. These tea sets also appear in the exhibition at the National Museum of China, stunning visitors by showcasing the exquisite imperial tea ceremonies from the Tang period.
A combination of museum, historical site and urban garden, Xi’an Museum is noted for its collection of rare cultural relics, millennium-old ancient pagoda, melodic bells that chime every morning in the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda and its picturesque garden landscapes.
The museum houses 130,000 cultural relics unearthed in Xi’an from various historical periods, of which 14,400 are national third-grade relics or above. In addition, a large proportion can be traced back to important dynasties in Chinese history, such as the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang. The cultural relics on display in the museum are high-grade, hugely influential and have been carefully selected from its collection.
There are three types of exhibitions in Xi’an Museum: basic, specialist and temporary exhibitions. The museum utilises modern audiovisual technology to display the cultural relics. By fusing real objects with high-tech methods of exhibition such as virtual books, holographic projections, digital-virtual presentations, interactive exhibitions and digital relic navigation, the museum has not only enriched its exhibitions but also managed to vividly display its cultural relics and revive the history of the ancient capital.
Apart from the exhibition hall, the grounds of the museum are also well worth a visit.
The Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda, formerly known as the Jianfu Temple Pagoda, was built in AD 707 during the Jinglong reign of Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty to store Buddhist scriptures and drawings brought back from India by the eminent monk Yijing. Initially, the pagoda was a tetragonal, 15-storey brick-built pagoda with dense eaves.
Its elegant architectural style is in sharp contrast with the magnificent, solemn style of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the 14th and 15th stories of the pagoda were destroyed by earthquakes. However, the cracks that appeared were later fixed, in what is known as the “marvelous restoration of the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda.” The pagoda today has 13 stories and retains the original appearance that it had when it was constructed during the early Tang Dynasty.
The Jianfu Temple was first built in 684, the first year of the Wenming reign of Emperor Ruizong of the Tang Dynasty. The Buddhist temple was constructed by Emperor Ruizong, also known as Li Dan, to pray for blessings after the death of his father, Emperor Gaozong. The existing architectural complex of the Jianfu Temple was rebuilt during the Ming and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. The ancient buildings in the temple roughly maintain the layout of when it was reconstructed during the Zhengtong reign of the Ming Dynasty. Most of the temple’s halls sit along a central axis linking the front gate to the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda. From south to north there are several buildings including the front gate, Bell and Drum Towers, Cishi
Famen Temple Museum